August Butterflies – Otmoor and Aston Rowant

I celebrated the start of August with a butterfly trip to two Oxfordshire hotspots on the hunt for some more species for my photography set and my year-list (which now stands at 48 species, including 10 species only seen on Lesvos in April).


All photos unless specified were taken on Friday with my D800E: all shots taken at higher ISO were taken handheld using the balanced flash technique.


Whether conditions to start off with were pretty much perfect for butterfly photography – warm overcast weather; the wind could have been a little lighter at times, both things were pretty good.


First stop was Otmoor, and in particular the ‘Roman road’ bridleway section just round the back of the carpark. This is spot well-known for Brown Hairstreak, a butterfly which is one of the UK’s most attractive and sought-after species.


Here I managed to locate two individuals, both nectaring on Hogweed. Neither was in the outstanding condition, and my shots are still not the best for this species. But here is one:




ISO 800 1/320 f/16


This spot is usually also good for a range of dragonflies and damselflies, but none were posing nicely on this visit. I also saw another 7 species of butterly here.



After lunch I then stopped at Aston Rowant NNR (the site north of the M40) – this is a stronghold for Silver-spotted Skipper, a charismatic but very localised species of warm chalky grassland.


Here the weather was still good, though at times very windy. Here I left the tripod in the car – the combination of the wind and the steep slopes made this seem quite a good idea.


On a hour or so’s walk, I saw thirteen species of butterfly, including some of my target species: highlights were good numbers of Silver-spotted Skipper, though none posing nicely at all; high numbers of Chalkhill Blues, including a number of females; some lovely fresh Brimstones; and bonus in the form of the migrant Painted Lady – these are easy to see in Greece in spring, but I haven’t seen on in the UK for a few years.


Below are some photos, including a shot of Silver-spotted Skipper from a couple of years back when one did pose for me nicely on top of a thistle.


Chalkhill Blue




ISO 640 1/320 f/16


Painted Lady




ISO 640 1/320 f/16


Brown Argus




ISO 400 1/320 f/16






ISO 640 1/320 f/16


: a lucky semi-planned frame showing a rare view of the topside with the nice orange spots.



Silver-spotted Skipper




One taken with my D3S a couple of years back, again taken handheld at or around flash sync speed.


I have a soft-spot for this species, since along with Brown and Purple Hairstreaks, it started my interest in butterfly photography; my first post in the NSN macro forum was almost 4 years ago exactly, of one of these; I will spare you my blushes by not posting the shot again here!






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